By Andrew Keshner
Flu season is about to hit full swing just as the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination for 5 to 11-year-olds has received final approval, and some parents may be concerned about their kids receiving the two vaccines close together.
But parents can rest easy: it’s OK for children to have the shots at or around the same time, according to pediatricians who talked to MarketWatch in October, when Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE -1.62% and BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX -7.44% announced they had submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of their COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11.
When it comes to flu shots and the COVID-19 vaccine, “the simple answer is they can be administered at the same time or shortly before or after one another,” according to Dr. Debbie-Ann Shirley, a pediatrician heading the University of Virginia’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease.
The vaccine rollout for kids under 12 has started, following FDA and CDC authorization . Parents can find the shots at pediatrician offices, public schools and other government-run sites, and at chain pharmacies such as Walgreens /zigman2/quotes/203410933/composite WBA -1.22% and CVS /zigman2/quotes/209664499/composite CVS -0.80% .
Some polling suggests a growing number of parents want to get their 5- to 11-year-old children vaccinated as soon possible in the face of the delta variant and with winter coming.
Based on “the best available data right now,” there’s no problem with a child receiving a flu shot and a COVID-19 shot during the same trip to the doctor’s office, according to Dr. Adam Ratner, chief of the pediatric infectious diseases division at New York University Grossman School of Medicine’s Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital.
“You can get them at the same time,” Ratner said. “There’s no reason to think there would be interference between the two of them,” he later added.
The flu shot, followed by the two COVID-19 shots is fine, he said. So is sandwiching the flu shot between the two COVID-19 shots. Though saving the flu shot for the end is also a way to go, Ratner advises against that sequence because it delays an important flu shot that can happen now.
“People should get their flu shot as soon as they can reasonably do it,” he said. With more children physically back in school and more adults back to work, “I think we will probably have a real flu season,” Ratner said.
Shirley made the same point for parent of kids awaiting the COVID-19 vaccine: For now, parents should have their kids “get the flu vaccine, because they can.”
Despite last year’s fears of a so-called “ twindemic ,” flu activity in the 2020-2021 season was “unusually low,” said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In almost 820,000 respiratory specimens tested in U.S. clinical labs, 0.2% were positive for an influenza virus, the CDC said. In the three flu seasons before that, positivity rates peaked between roughly 26% and 30%, the public health agency said.
The CDC attributed the 2020-2021 flu season outcome to pandemic-related social distancing and masking measures. There was also a record 193.8 million flu shot doses distributed in the 2020-2021 season , it noted.
When it comes to question of getting a flu shot and COVID-19 shot at the same time, the CDC said there’s “limited data” but “experience with giving other vaccines together has shown the way our bodies develop protection and possible side effects are generally similar whether vaccines are given alone or with other vaccines.”
People who are eligible for booster COVID-19 shots can get them at the same time as a flu shot, the CDC said. When the CDC website discussed taking the shots in tandem, it didn’t break out any particular considerations for different age groups.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for 5-11 year olds comes in a smaller dose than what’s used for older age groups. Research on the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine for older age groups indicates that “co-administration” of the shots is fine, Shirley said.
Parents should remember the series of shots their kids are already getting during doctor’s visits, Shirley said.
“What we do know in the 5-11 age group, we give multiple immunizations to them routinely,” and the slew of shots — happening as soon as two months into a child’s life — are tolerated. “There’s no reason to expect that COVID would be different,” she said.
This story was updated on Nov. 4, 2021.